Introduction to the Art of Film

movie screen

Instructor: Dr. Barbara Brickman
Class Meeting Time:
M W 12:30 - 1:45
Office: TLC 2243
Office Hours: M W 9:00-12:00
On-line Office Hours: T 9:00-12:00

In this course students will consider the primary visual, aural, and narrative conventions by which motion pictures create and comment upon significant social experience. We will watch a wide range of films from a variety of countries and historical moments in film history. Students will have the chance to explore issues such as framing, photographic space, film shot, editing, sound, genre, narrative form, acting style, and lighting in the context of wider discussions of the weekly films. This is an introductory course, and assumes no prior knoweldge of film. Students will be evaluated primarily on the basis of quizzes, short writing exercises and response papers, in-class writing, and exams.
syllabus button

Required Texts:

Corrigan, Timothy and Patricia White. The Film Experience: An Introduction

Electronic Reserve Readings on the course WebCT site (a handout for first-time users is available on-line)


Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will demonstrate an ability to analyze films as texts.
  • Students will gain an enhanced knowledge of the medium's distinctive qualities.
  • Students will demonstrate in both oral and written work a discipline-specific critical facility through thesis-driven analysis of related material.
  • Students will demonstrate a basic understanding of the history of developments in motion pictures.
  • Students will develop the ability to discuss critically key concepts in film studies relating to distribution, exhibition, production, mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing, sound, and narrative conventions.
  • Students will gain a familiarity with alternatives to classical Hollywood cinema, for instance documentary, experimental, independent, or global cinema.
  • Students will develop an introductory understanding of basic concepts in film theory.

Program Goals:

  • Oral and written communication will be characterized by clarity, critical analysis, logic, coherence, persuasion, precision, and rhetorical awareness (Core Curriculum learning outcomes I)
  • Cultural and Social Perspectives: Cultural and social perspective will be characterized by cultural awareness and an understanding of the complexity and dynamic nature of social/political/economic systems; human and institutional behavior, values, and belief systems; historical and spatial relationship; and, flexibility, open-mindedness, and tolerance. (Core Curriculum learning outcomes III)
  • Aesthetic Perspective: Aesthetic perspective will be characterized by critical appreciation of and ability to make informed aesthetic judgments about the arts of various cultures as media for human expression (Core Curriculum learning outcomes V)
  • Humanities/Arts Learning Outcomes:

1. To develop the ability to recognize and identify achievements in literary, fine and performing arts;
2. To have an appreciation of the nature and achievements of the arts and humanities; and
3. To develop the ability to apply, understand, and appreciate the application of aesthetics criteria to "real world circumstances.

  • This course contributes to the program goal of equipping students with a foundation in the issues surrounding literary study in contemporary culture.
There are four types of assignments for this class: readings/screenings, quizzes, writing exercises, and two exams. You must complete the reading assignments before each class and be prepared to be called on about the content of the readings. Also, Thursday's class will involve some group work and class discussion related to the readings for that day and the weekly screening. Your involvement in this group work and discussion (along with attendance in class) will make up a large part of your participation grade.
Note: Readings and assignments are due on the day they are listed on the syllabus. Many readings are marked by "WebCT" and can be found on the course's WebCT page. Changes or additions to the readings may occur during the semester. I will announce these in class and post them on WebCT.
Film screenings act as perhaps the most essential 'reading' assignment for each week and should be regarded with the utmost scholarly attention. This is a film class and these texts are your primary sources so they should be treated as such. With this in mind, I recommend you take notes during screenings or just after--your participation and written responses will depend on it. You can find many of the films in the usual places (for rent in your local video store, for rent on an on-line video store, or for purchase in stores), but I have also put two copies of every film on four-hour reserve in the library. You may take the film out of the library during that four hours to watch in a computer lab or on a laptop or you can use the library's viewers. Additionally, I am working on securing a room for group screenings, but I will say more about that in class.
Writing Exercises:
In the first half of the semester,
students will perform a shot-by-shot analysis of one scene of a film. This 2-page paper will be an analysis of a visual motif in the scene which students must first break down into shot-by-shot annotations. The analysis of the motif will comprise the 2 pages and the shot-by-shot documentation must be attached at the end (as an appendix). The essay must follow MLA formatting and citation practices (which we will cover in class). In the second half of the semester, you will be asked to write a segmentation of a narrative section of a film. This 2-page paper will ask students to provide an overview of the narrative structure and analyze the significance of the ordering of events. Next,  Please note: The syllabus indicates that there will be a writing workshop day on which a draft of your essay will be due. If you do not come to class on these days and present a draft to me, your paper will not be eligible to receive a grade. In other words, if you do not go through the workshop process and fail to turn in a draft for shorter and longer essays, you cannot turn in the final version of the paper for a grade.
Quizzes and Exams:
There will be two exams, one at the midterm and one at the end of the semester, and a number of quizzes. The quizzes and exams will test students' understanding of key film terminology and historical developments. The shorter quizzes will be simple reading/viewing comphrension tests and the long quizzes are meant to prepare students for the more difficult task of the examination. The total for all the quizzes will comprise 30% of the student's final grade, after the lowest quiz grade is dropped. The midterm exam will test, in a more compreshensive way, the students' growing understanding of concepts and film movements and will comprise 15% of a student's final grade. Furthermore, the final exam will include the midterm-type questions and an essay portion challenging students to articulate increasing critical sophistication in relation to the cinematic text (20% of final grade).

Class Participation:
You will be expected to participate as much as possible in this class. Active participation involves, of course, attending class, but you are also expected to have done all the reading before class and screened the films (well enough for pop quizzes), to listen attentively to the instructor and your other classmates, and to offer provocative and interesting questions or contributions to class discussion. Your participation accounts for a significant portion of your final grade (10%), so I highly recommend that you come to class with your own discussion questions in mind and that you stay on top of any and all absences or tardiness problems.

The percentage breakdown is as follows:

Quizzes = 30%                      Midterm Exam = 15%
Segmentation = 10%              Shot-by-shot = 10%
                    Final Exam = 20%                  In-class writing/Participation = 15%
Class attendance is mandatory. There is too much material to cover in the short time allowed in two meetings a week to be able to afford an absence. I understand, however, that emergencies occur. Do your best to keep me aware of when and why you will miss a class. Be advised, though, that every absence after your 2rd absence will lower your participation grade by 1/2, and five or more absences will result in an administrative withdrawal from the course with an F. Although, again, I understand that emergencies occasionally arise, consistent tardiness will not be tolerated. If this becomes a problem (i.e. I have to speak to you about it), you can expect to lose half and absence.
*Please turn off all cell phones and pagers before class begins.*
Deadlines and Late Papers:
Papers are due at the beginning of class and late papers (even 15 minutes into class) will be penalized. We are often starting new material on the days papers are due, so a late-comer will miss course material and disrupt discussion. More seriously, late papers will lose 1/2 of a letter grade for each day they are late. After a week (seven days late including weekends), the paper will automatically receive a failing grade (F ). If a student has a verifiable medical excuse or family emergency and requests an extension (by e-mail, phone, or in person) before the paper deadline, then an extension can be granted. Excuses such as having papers or exams for other classes, discovering a schedule conflict with work or other responsibilities, or simply feeling overwhelmed occur too commonly to be considered "serious" and will not result in an extension.
Academic Honesty:
Plagiarism is the act of claiming the ideas or actual words of another as one's own. This act can take several forms: copying an essay from a printed source or the internet, taking answers from another student's paper, or using the language and/or ideas from any source without proper citation. The work you turn in should be your own. The penalties for academic dishonesty are severe, and ignorance is not an acceptable defense. Flagrant violations of this policy (e.g. copying papers from the internet or cheating on exams) are grounds for failing the course. I will pursue (and have pursued in the past) any irregularities I detect, and, if necessary, I will begin formal proceedings according to university policy.
Paper Formatting:
Papers should be typed, double-spaced, in 12-point font (preferably Times New Roman or another standard serif font) with 1" top and bottom margins and 1-1.25" right and left margins, and without title pages. Using large margins and enormous fonts (i.e. Courier New) to fulfill the page requirement fools no one, least of all me (I used to work in desktop publishing and I know all the tricks), so follow these guidelines and come for extra help or use the writing workshops to learn how to present a full, well-supported argument that meets the page requirements.

Extra Help:
If you feel you need help or if you have any questions regarding the class, come by my office, Room 2243 in the TLC. I will always be in my office and prepared to offer assistance during my office hours, which will be from 9:30-12:00 on Mondays and Wednesdays, and 3:30-5:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If for some reason you are unable to see me during my office hours, I can arrange an alternative meeting time. Always bring your notes and past assignments with you when you come to see me so that I can better determine how your preparation is affecting your overall performance. In the worst case scenario (i.e. you can't find me or have to ask me a question immediately), you can always e-mail me. Also, do not forget about the Writing Center where the instructors and staff work to assist writers at any point in the writing process. For more information or to make an appointment, e-mail the Writing Center at
If you need to reach me for any reason, you will have the best luck via e-mail at For all official correspondence with me, you must e-mail me from your university (MyUWG) account or WebCT account in order to make it easier to identify the sender of the e-mail and to avoid unnecessary security or virus risks.
Special Needs:
The University of West Georgia adheres to the Americans for Disabilities Act, known as ADA, which requires that all programs at the university be accessible to people with disabilities.
If you have a registered disability that will require accommodation, please see me in my office at the beginning of the semester. If you have a disability that you have not yet registered through the Disabled Student Services Office, please contact Dr. Ann Phillips in 272 Parker Hall at (678) 839-6428.

Syllabus Contract

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